The excitement and fear of 400 spectacular sculptures going up in flames may remind you of another Spanish festival: the Running of the Bulls.
The ultimate purpose of a falla, the name of which is derived from the Latin word for “torch,” is to be burned.
Las Fallas is a great mix of satire, community, religion and hefty measures of apocalyptic noise and fires.
2017 is the first festival since Las Fallas was granted Unesco heritage status.
The fiery festival dates back to the Middle Ages.
Long before lightbulbs, Valencian carpenters and artisans worked under candlelight, using planks of wood called parots to hang their candles on.
Come spring, when sunlight replaced candlelight, the parots were burned.
The celebration was immediately adopted to celebrate the arrival of warmer, longer days.
The Chuch encouraged the date of the burning to coincide with the festival of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters.
Over time, carpenters tried to outdo one another, even dressing the parot as a person or client who was particularly annoying.
Posters referring to the offending person might even appear at the side!
Today, the effigies are dressed up in fabulous costumes: the larger ones are called fallas, the smaller, doll-like ones, ninot.
The ninots grew in both size and detail, as did the cartoonish fallas, which flaunt satirical scenes and current events.
Polystyrene replaced the fallas’ papier mâché-covered wooden frames, allowing them to tower up to 30 meters (100 feet).
During the grand finale, all works end up in a blaze, except for one that is pardoned by popular vote.
Siobhan O’Shea is a freelance writer. She writes about pretty much everything but especially likes to bring readers’ attention to new tech, marketing, human behavior, and other oddities.